Williamsburg veteran’s service continues through American Legion

  • The military marker is shown on the side of the grave of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II veteran who died in 1992, in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Leeds. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, digs up the military marker of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, washes the military marker of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, digs up the military marker of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, digs up the military marker of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II veteran who died in 1992. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, places the military marker next to the grave site of of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall cleaned and prepared the spot so the marker would not get covered by grass and dirt. "I treat them all like they are my family," he said. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • After getting the ground ready Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, comes back to his truck for the cleaned military marker of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, brushes off the military marker next to the grave site of of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall cleaned and prepared the spot so the marker would not get covered by grass and dirt. "I treat them all like they are my family," he said. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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    As the last step Jim Hall, the vice commander of the American Legion Post 236 in Haydenville and historian, sprays laquer on the military marker next to the grave site of of Benjamin H. Willcutt, a World War II vet who died in 1992. Hall cleaned and prepared the spot so the marker would not get covered by grass and dirt. "I treat them all like they are my family," he said. Hall hopes to enlist Legion and community members to clean and restore the markers at St. Mary's Cemetery. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/30/2021 8:19:33 PM

WILLIAMSBURG – For Jim Hall, a Navy veteran, being a part of the American Legion has great meaning.

“It’s not just a place to go and drink,” said Hall, 64.

Hall is a member of the board and vice commander of the Haydenville American Legion Post 236, and is a retired general contractor. Hall is also keen to demonstrate the good work that the American Legion and its members do.

In May, Hall performed an act of service when he restored four veterans plaques at the St. Mary of the Assumption Cemetery in Leeds/Haydenville, and he’s planning future Legion events to restore even more.

“I just did a dry run,” he said.

The plaques he restored included one for his deceased father, Delmar Hall, which had been displaced and overgrown. Delmar Hall was a veteran of World War II, and the other veterans who had their plaques restored also served during World War II and were friends of Delmar.

To restore the plaques, Hall first dug them up and cleaned them off, after which he dug holes for each plaque, put stone dust into the holes and set the plaques into place. As a final step, Hall put lacquer on the markers.

The next restoration effort will be a Legion event and will occur in September. Legion members and others from the community will be welcome to participate.

“I just hope they come out and participate,” he said. “We do good things.”

Hall also said that there are plans to do another restoration next May.

From 1973 to 1977, Hall, who grew up in Haydenville, served in the Navy as a Seabee.

“I graduated high school a year early and booked,” Hall said.

It was much later in life, however, that Hall decided to join the Legion, prompted to do so by the death of his uncle Tom Floutin, who had long urged him to join.

Hall said that was about eight years ago and that “now I’m just hooked on it.”

He also said that Legions and VFWs are full of good people doing good things.

“It’s about time people realized that,” he said.

Additionally, Hall noted that “you never know who you’re sitting next to” when you’re at a Legion bar.

Still, Hall said that both American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts are struggling.

“They’re closing left and right,” he said.

Last year, VFW Post 754 in Amherst closed its bar, although the post is still active.

Hall noted that the Haydenville post, which he said is in no danger of closing, is one of the oldest businesses in town. Veterans bought the building in 1919, and the post got its charter in the 1940s.

“The place has been around awhile,” he said.

Hall also noted that he went to kindergarten in the building.

Hall said that he’s looking to display more history in the Haydenville post.

“Nobody knows who Gerald Larkin is,” said Hall.

Larkin was a Haydenville resident who was killed in action while serving in the Army in Italy during World War II. The Haydenville post is named after him.

Hall is also planning to display pictures from the ambulance service in the hilltowns that was once run by the Legion.

Hall noted that while previously only people who served in certain time periods could be members of the Legion, it’s now open to all veterans.

“If you served, you can belong to the Legion now,” he said. “We’re beating the bushes trying to get people to join.”

He also noted, however, that on the Haydenville board he’s the youngest member.

Hall said that spouses can join the Legion’s auxiliary, male children of veterans can join the Sons of the American Legion and members of either can join the American Legion Riders. He also pointed to the special space that Legion events create on Memorial Day.

“You get a chance to see and recognize someone,” he said. “You never know who you’re talking to.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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